How does a business optimise its rankings in the search engines?
“Creating compelling and useful content will likely influence your website more than any other factor…..Create your site for your users not for search engines.” (Google)
What does this mean in practice?
Business owners are best placed to create this “compelling and useful content”. Business owners know their customers (i.e. users) better than any third party or SEO agency. A third party with SEO expertise can help ensure that the site is laid out and structured in an SEO friendly way, ensure that the technical fundamentals are as best as they can be, and provide analytical data on visitor behaviour and general advice, but ultimately the business owner is the true driver. It’s best to think of SEO as marketing. This is good news as it puts control back into the hands of the business. A simple example of this is to ask people to visit and review your site and then take action based on their feedback. This type of exercise is probably more valuable than any quantitative analytical data.
How SEO has changed
Link building – there’s no need to try and get, or pay for, lots of links anymore, besides it is detrimental to your SEO. If the content (and business) is strong it will attract natural and diverse links which will carry much more weight. This also means there is no need, or benefit, in listing your site with lots and lots of free online directories which have very low authority in the search engines eyes. Ask yourself the question – would any of your customers actually use these sites? Why then would the search engines regard a link from them as in any way valuable?
Quality backlinks are still very important. If you are developing a link building strategy this should be very carefully managed and should work in tandem with with your content marketing activities so that the links at least give the appearance of natural linkage.
Keywords – there is no need to try and squeeze in as many keywords as possible, again this will have a negative impact. The search engines review content as a whole or what they call “in context” and they don’t focus on single keywords. This means content can (and should) be written naturally around a topic with a variety of terms which can be steered towards actual search terms people use, and this is where analytics can help.
Blogs – these can be useful for adding fresh content but they are essentially a waste of time if nobody reads them so they need to be made relevant and useful to your users and then leveraged and promoted in the right way. A good FAQ page may be more useful and will probably save you more time in the end.
Website design – Visitors or search engines don’t care if your site wins “website design of the year”. Your visitors want information and they want it fast, they don’t care about how “cool” the site looks. The layout needs to be uncluttered, intuitive with clear navigation and internal linkage and text that’s easy to read. Crucially, text needs to be easily readable on mobile as typically this cohort will represent over 50% of your visitors. Search engines monitor visitor interaction and if visitors bounce off your site because it gives a bad user experience you can expect to drop down the rankings.
Social Media – According to a lot of so-called SEO experts this doesn’t directly impact on SEO but if social platforms are driving more visitors to your site then they can have a major influence, albeit indirectly.
Reviews – these are very important in showing trust for your site and your business as they are (generally) genuine and written by real people (those “users” again!). A Google Places listing can be a good starting point for obvious reasons plus it is very under utilised by the majority of business and presents an easy-win opportunity.
Keeping these core concepts in mind and building them into your overall marketing strategy will help build your online traffic in the right way and lead to a more sustainable and stable online presence for your site.